Thursday, January 31, 2008

Album Review:
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

(XL; 2008)

Grade: 63.5%

More than half a year has passed since Stereogum and Good Weather for Airstrikes gave Vampire Weekend their stamp of approval, thus setting off a chain of events that saw Vampire Weekend become one of 2007's most buzzed bands. Now that the album is officially out, the amount of hype is starting to reach levels similar to the British invasion, only this time I'm not buying what the buzz bin is selling. Why? The second coming of the Beatles they're not; if anything, Vampire Weekend sound like Paul Simon's Graceland as performed by the Police. Unfortunately for Vampire Weekend, I never really got into Graceland, or The Police.

I did give this album a legitimate shot, I swear. It would be a disservice to both you, the reader, and me, the music fan, to not keep an open mind. And I have to admit that Vampire Weekend does boast several honest-to-God good songs, ones that I might have completely ignored had I not given the album a fair chance. As you might have guessed, the songs I'm currently digging are some of the album's more "rock" songs, such as the first single "A-Punk," "Campus," and "I Stand Corrected." Neither of those songs rely too heavily on the Afro-pop sound Vampire Weekend is being touted for, and they're better for it. In fact, Vampire Weekend could have been a great garage rock or Indie-pop album had the band decided to lean more in either of those directions. Honestly, I wish they had.

My biggest beef with Vampire Weekend isn't that its a bad album. No, the main reason I can't get myself into the album - the same reason I can't get into Graceland, which is also not really a bad album - is because Vampire Weekend is boring with a capital B. "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," one of the first Vampire Weekend songs to spread like wildfire, is a total snooze-fest, leaving me to wonder just how the hell they managed to take the internet by storm like they have. The rest of the album never delivers anything else to perk things up either, which leaves me to lament the absence of "Boston," an excellent song from the self-released Blue CD-R "demo" that preceded the album. Vampire Weekend also suffers from being very same-samey, and by the time you get to "Walcott" you'll probably start to think the album is on repeat. Even some of the better songs are hard to distinguish from one another. Again, I should point out that Vampire Weekend isn't necessarily a bad album, but it may as well be because I'll probably never want to listen to it again just the same.

Normally, I'd hesitate to be so harsh on an album that just came out, as usually these things turn out to be "growers" and I'm forced to eat my words. But because the majority of these songs were already available on the Blue CD-R (with little to no change), the album has essentially had several months to gestate, and if it were ever going to grow on me I believe it would have happened by now. But it hasn't, and I'm pretty sure it never will. Oh well. Here's hoping 2008's next "it" band is a little more exciting.

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Forgive Me If I Digress from the Music Scene for a Moment: Tim and Eric Coming to Lawrence!

Season Two of Tim and Eric Awesome Show may have just ended, but as reader Zach has pointed out, you can now see them live in your hometown. And that includes Lawrence, Kansas. Yep, Tim and Eric's Awesome Tour is coming to the Bottleneck on April 29.

Really this post isn't completely off-topic. Tim and Eric do have an impressive assortment of music videos, including "Doo Dah Doo Doo," "Horse and Buggy Ride," "I'm Never Gonna Wipe My Butt," and so forth. And maybe they'll take their pals the Shins along for the tour? I'd settle for Dr. Steve Bruhl.

As of now only the Austin tickets are on sale. Keep an eye on TicketBastard, though, cause these babies are going to go fast. All dates after the jump.

4/21/08 - Cambridge, MA - T.T. The Bear's
4/22/08 - New York, NY - HighLine Ballroom
4/23/08 - Minneapolis, MN - North Star Ballroom
4/24/08 - Asheville, NC - Grey Eagle
4/25/08 - Atlanta, GA - Plaza Theatre
4/27/08 - Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle
4/28/08 - St. Louis, MO - Off Broadway Nightclub
4/29/08 - Lawrence, KS - The Bottleneck

4/30/08 - Austin, TX - The Parish Room
5/02/08 - Seattle, WA - Neuomo's
5/03/08 - Portland, OR - McMenamins Bagdad Theater
5/04/08 - San Franciso, CA - Richshaw Stop
5/05/08 - Los Angeles, CA - Echoplex

I love their shhhhooooowwww!

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Neko Case As Aquateen 'Siren'

Apparently the powers-that-be at Cartoon Network love them some indie music, whether it's The Shins on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, or Grizzly Bear's "Little Brother" backing Adult Swim spots. The newest addition to the Adult Swim family is Neko Case, who appeared as a seductive siren on Sunday's Aqua Teen. Here's a shot of the cartoonized Case, who I don't think I would have recognized if it weren't for her distinctive vocals. She wouldn't pose for Playboy, boys, but now you can fawn over her digitized rack.

Head over to Stereogum to view the clip where Neko seduces Carl.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Little Blurbs:

Mahjongg - Kontpab

(K Records; 2008)

Grade: 71.0%

[mp3] "Tell the Police the Truth"

A few weeks back we previewed a few of the tracks from Mahjongg's latest album, Kontpab, and though the comments were few in number, it seemed like they were enjoyed by those who listened. If you are one of those who enjoyed the tracks we previewed, then I have both good news and bad news. The bad news is that the two songs we featured turned out to be two of the better ones, which means that its only natural to feel a bit let down after giving Kontpab its first full listen. The good news, however, is that "Pontiac" and "Tell the Police the Truth" still hold up well, and the album's closing track, "Rise Rice," manages to one-up them both, with Mahjongg perfectly executing the blend of electronic and percussive heavy post-rock I briefly touched on in my previous post. Kontpab may not be the revelation I had hoped for, though it's still good.

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Wayback Whensday:
Old Kids on the Block?

Remember when a group of teenage bad boys called New Kids on the Block were all the rage? I must have been slow on the draw when it came to "those" feelings; while my friends were showing Barbie a good time with their Donnie dolls (you know who you are), I was pretending to breastfeed plastic baby dolls. Boys were icky, and that included Jordan, Joey, Donnie, Dannie, and Jon.

Aren't these guys responsible for the wave of boy bands to follow: Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, N 'Sync, etc.? Thankfully the trend seems to be dying out, but not for long. Just this week the New Kids on the Block announced their impending return to the music world. And just in case you were wondering, yes, they have a new single. I'm sure it's poised to melt the hearts of all us late-twenty-somethings.

If you head over to the band's website, you'll be asked the question, "Are You Ready?" I don't know, ladies, are we?

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

'Loveless on Mushrooms' ?- Sign Me Up

Deerhunter's Bradford Cox has posted a mixtape of the initial Cryptograms' recording session (You remember, the one he railed on his ex-producer about. Honestly I don't even know what was said, other than the session sucked. Still I keep hearing about it.)

In a P4k interview Cox referred to these sessions as "Loveless on mushrooms... and I mean that in not a complimentary way." Wait up -- how could that not be complimentary? In any event, Cox resurrected the material, patchworked it together, and made this mixtape.

Side A sounds a lot like the ambient Cryptograms tracks gussied up a bit. I haven't listened to Side B yet, but apparently it features a pretty gnarly Half Pint and the Fifths cover. I mean gnarly in a complimentary way, of course.

So it's true? That whole cassette thing is coming back into vogue? Apparently some guys out of Brooklyn calling themselves Fuck It Tapes were responsible for producing this Cryptograms mixtape, which you can purchase on their site for $8. Or you can just download it for free from Bradford's blog here.

Isn't it cool to know even the big stars use Blogger?

P.S. Deerhunter may be taking a furlow, but don't forget that Atlas Sound album is coming out February 19.

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Listen to Xiu Xiu and More Thao While We Attempt to Write Their Reviews

With school having started back up, we're all getting a little busy again, so I hope you'll accept our apology for not having a fresh album review up yet. In the meantime, here's some mp3's that will hopefully tide you over for now.

Xiu Xiu - "F.T.W."

Thao - "Bag of Hammers" (Jenna will cry if you don't listen to this one)

[Midwest Slant] Xiu Xiu and Thao are hitting the road together, stopping in several Midwest cities along the way. Lookie here:

3/13 @ Maintenance Shot (Ames, IA)
3/31 @ Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center (St. Louis, MO)
4/01 @ Randy Bacon Gallery (Springfield, MO)
4/02 @ Conservatory (Oklahoma City, OK)

Xiu Xiu's latest album, Women as Lovers, and Thao's latest album, We Brave Bee Stings and All, are both out now on Kill Rock Stars.

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Mixtape, uh, Tuesday:
Study Songs

Well, you know what they say, better late than never, right? This mixtape is topical, as homework - assigned reading specifically - kept me pretty busy until very late Monday night. Originally this mixtape was inspired by a visit to the web site Pandora and requested a Mogwai radio station. In fact, it was that Mogwai station where I first heard Gregor Samsa. Initially, my mix was going to be all instrumental post-rock, but I mixed it up a little with some Animal Collective and Six Organs of Admittance (and would have put on some Sea and Cake and Papa M if Project Playlist and Fileden weren't acting so screwy). Whether you've got some studying to do, or just need some background music, have a listen.

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Top Five Tuesday:
Top Five Songs About Pleasuring Thyself

Hey you. Yes, you. I know what sites you're planning on visiting after this one. I want you to know it's OK.

Here I've compiled the best songs that tackle the most sensitive of subjects. These are not to be confused with The Best Songs to Masturbate To, which I imagine would be an entirely different sort of post.

Sorry, Divinyls, these aren't just any masturbation songs. These are the Top Five Best Masturbation Songs.

5. “Karen” – The National

“It's a common fetish for a doting man
to ballerina on the coffee table cock in hand.”
The best couplet I’ve heard in a long time. Hands down. No really, put ’em down.

4. “Silence Kit” – Pavement

If I were to quote the quintessential Malkmus, it would be this line:

“Five hours later i'm...chewin'...screwin' myself with my hands.”

Just like that, he’s spent. The song ends.

3. “If You’re Feeling Sinister” – Belle & Sebastian

Masturbation is one thing; but masturbation and religion? Now there’s a match made in, err, heaven. I still remember sitting and chatting with my “vicar or whatever” – incidentally, one asked if I’d ever looked at pornographic materials. But this is B&S’ tale to tell…

“If you are feeling sinister
Go off and see a minister
Chances are you'll probably feel better
If you stayed and played with yourself.”

2. “Thinking About You” – Radiohead

Though Pablo Honey remains the black sheep of the band’s catalog, you cannot deny stripped down Thom-and-guitar action. Leave it to Radiohead to write a song called “Thinking About You” that strays as far from a romantic diddy as possible. Or does it?

“Should I still love you
Still see you in bed
But I'm playing with myself
What do you care?
When the other men are far far better.”

Throw in a healthy dose of self-deprecation and paranoia, and you have the creepiest song about masturbation ever written. Masturbation references aside, one cannot deny the classic line, “Who bribed the company to come and see you, honey?”

(For more Yorke creepiness, see“Climbing Up the Walls” -- “I’ve got the smell of the local man who’s got the loneliest feeling.”)


1. "Icicle" - Tori Amos

Maybe it's because she's a woman, or because she doesn't beat around the bush (I said it!). I think it's because "Icicle" is completely and unabashedly a song about youth, sexuality, religion, and all those other touchy subjects rolled into one. This is the edgiest song Amos has ever or will ever write.

Where oh where are the Tori Amos' of yesteryear?

Greeting the monster in our Easter dresses
Father says bow your head like the Good Book says
Well I think the Good Book is missing some pages
Gonna lay down gonna lay down

And when my hand touches myself I can finally rest my head
And when they say take of his body I think Ill take from mine instead

Getting off, getting off
While they're all downstairs
Singing prayers, sing away
Hes in my pumpkin p.j.s
Lay your book on my chest
Feel the word feel the word feel the word feel it

Oh, Tori, don't you just hate it when you come to church unprepared for that time of the month? (Look at what's running down her leg in that picture...) I can already see it now. Next week: Top Five Songs About Menstruation. OK, maybe not.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

The Weekend in Music: New Tunes, Wakarusa 2008, Concert Wishlist

Just because we weren't posting doesn't mean we weren't obsessing.

From Chamber Pop to Dubstep
The best thing about being slow on the draw with a new artist is that you don't have to wait so long for a follow-up. Take Swedish crooner El Perro del Mar. Where was I in 2006 when her debut LP was released? Never mind; I'm making up for it by grooving on her upcoming album "From the Valley to the Stars" (April 22). Apparently Jens Lekman had a hand in getting this brooding young talent noticed, and his influence is apparent on first-leaked single "How Did We Forget." Are those horns I detect? Might Miss Assbring (yes, Assbring) be recovering from "this loneliness" after all?

Other new music updates: I'm enjoying the new Hot Chip quite a bit, though I'm a bit surprised by the direction the band's taking. The new material is less dancey, at least in that house-y type of way. Stay tuned for my full review next week. I'm also getting more into that Burial album. About time, right? For now I'm equating them with The Field, what SonicRyan would call "dance music on your terms" (or in this case, dubstep on my terms). Also, Stephen Malkmus' newest is intriguing, though I haven't really given it an earnest listen. I'm going to get on that, right now.

Wakarusa Follow-Up
Thanks, Backdrifter, for clueing us in to the fabulous addition to this year's Wakarusa Festival: The Flaming Lips. I am lamenting the fact that plans to move the festival to private
grounds were rejected. Something about not having the "infrastructure" to handle the festival. As one reader commented on a June 2007 LJ World article, "If it moves to private land, the Wookies come back." Isn't that what Wakarusa is all about, though? Hippies, free love, overpriced psychedelics? Seriously, though, some of the reader comments on these stories are pretty good.

"'Keep your dirty hippies over in Douglas county.'


The World"

My favorite:

"Maybe if they had the festival, Jefferson County could get a stoplight."

Can Someone Get Me Tickets to This?
Pollstar has posted a story about Grizzly Bear performing with the LA Philharmonic March 1. The concert will consist of "orchestral pieces specifically chosen to reflect the music that inspired Grizzly Bear to pursue their own musical endeavors" followed by Grizzly Bear performing a full set. Incredible. Even more incredible? Tickets are a measly $24-$34 ($10 for students!). Now if there weren't that plane ticket to mess with...

I'll leave you with this image GossipGrrl sent me.

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Have You Heard?
Ipso Facto - "Harmonise"

These dreary seemingly never-ending Kansas winter days make me want to wallow in dark music and dress in all black. I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel in this snowy abyss. OK, so maybe I’m a bit melodramatic, but if you can’t beat it then embrace it, right?

Fitting with my mood my ears are engaged to the sounds of Ipso Facto. Emerging from London, this all girl “goth” band is described as “creeping noir pop” (Vice Magazine) or “Monochrome psychedelica that is Horrors-esque, dark garage pop” (Drowned in Sound). I think I even read them being compared to early Elastica -- you know, that whole brit-pop thing.

To me, they sound a bit like a less punk, more goth Sleater-Kinney. Sleater-Kinney in the early days, I should say.

Not to mention they have the cutest vintage style and the hottest hair around.

Maybe I’m also a sucker for organ music.

Check out Ipso Facto – "Harmonise".

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Flaming Lips Are Coming Back

The Flaming Lips are back on the Wakarusa Festival lineup after a one-year hiatus! It's as good a time as any to stop showering and locate some psychedelics in preparation for early June.

After seeing last years' mind-blowing show at the Uptown, I'm anticipating the full festival Flaming Lips experience.

Apparently the Wakarusa Festival organizers decided to try and move the location for this year's hippie drug fest, but Jefferson county wasn't having it. It will again be at Clinton Lake, but who knows for how long. Be careful though, they stepped up their crackdown awhile back. Beware of traffic jams, check points, and drug sniffing dogs!

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Friday, January 25, 2008

You Came to See the Show; Now Shut the Hell Up

By Nicole Pope

During his 2006 Sunken Treasure tour, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy had this to say during one all-acoustic set:

People who are talking during this performance, I have a question for you. What can I do to be of a better service to you? Am I not playing the right songs? Am I not pouring my heart out up here for you? Tell me what I need to do to get you to listen to the concert that you paid money to go see. I'm serious... I want to make you happy. And if you're happy talking, then why did you come here?

Tweedy received quite the backlash for his comments from fans. Looking at the YouTube video of this diatribe (which I highly recommend you view), you'll come across some praise, but also comments like, "When did Tweedy become so whiney?" or "No performer should bitch about the people who put food in their mouths."

Many of these fans suggest that talking during a concert is their right. But what about the rights of those who paid to see the band and actually want to listen to them?

Case in point (bear with me as I relay just one more scene-setting YLT anecdote): This past weekend, just a few songs into Yo La Tengo's acoustic set, a crowd of drunken buffoons entered the venue and, completely clueless to the spellbound crowd of devoted fans surrounding them, proceeded to start shrieking and, as my grandmother would say, "carrying on." And I thought the last YLT concert was bad, when that couple behind me kept giving each other the play-by-play during "Tiny Birds," one of the band's most subtle songs: "Just wait for that cymbal coming up. The soothing drum roll. Oh, just listen to Georgia's harmony." Yes! Please listen to it! I wanted to say.

I doubt anyone will disagree that loud talking during an intimate acoustic show is completely out of line. But what about those girls yakking away at The Shins show last winter, or The New Pornographers, or that notoriously loud harpy at The Decemberists years ago? I know what you're thinking: just ask them to be quiet. I usually try delivering evil glares until it's clear this method won't work, at which point I kindly ask if they could maybe-possibly-kinda keep it down a bit. And you know what happens every time? I'm met with an animosity as intense as if I'd just told them they shouldn't come to a Shins show because they heard that one song on the radio, or because this hot guy from Phi Delt likes them, or because Natalie Portman said they were really rad.

For this reason I have to thank Mr. Tweedy for doing the dirty work for concert goers like myself who, you know, just want to go to concerts. I'm not saying you have to be as passionate about the music as I am, just don't ruin it for the rest of us.

Thank you for listening.

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First Listen Friday:
Tulsa, Thao w/GDSD, and Hot Chip

Man, it's been a long week of work and I'm looking forward to the weekend. Last weekend was jam packed with a trip to Springfield to see the incredible Yo La Tengo, and the work week was filled with stress and overtime. This weekend I vow to take it easy!

Here are some tracks that have got me through.

Tulsa - "Rafter"

The echoing guitars and vocals evoke a nice relaxing mood. I Was Submerged came out late last year from this band out of Boston.

Thao with The Get Down Stay Down - "Swimming Pools"

Off of her upcoming album We Brave Bee Stings and All, to be released next week. I've certainly braved some metaphorical bee stings this week.

Hot Chip - "Ready for the Floor"

The soothing voice of Alexis Taylor takes the edge off. The Range Life staff is excited about this upcoming release and there will certainly be more to come from the blog.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Album Review:
Times New Viking - Rip It Off

Times New Viking - Rip It Off

(Matador; 2008)

Grade: 74.0%


In April of last year, most of the Range Life staff caught Times New Viking opening for the legendary Yo La Tengo. After chuckling at the band's goofy moniker, I stood back and listened as the threesome made quite a racket. They don't sound half bad, I thought to myself, and if their record sounds a little more cleaned up, I'll bet it's great. Yes, have a laugh now, because if you're familiar at all with TNV, you know that their records are anything but cleaned up, and make their live shows sound crystalline by comparison.

This brings us to Rip It Off, the follow up to last year's critically acclaimed Present the Paisley Reich, and their first for Matador Records. Like Present, the album is a batch of quick, energetic bursts of noise-y pop goodness that sounds like it was filtered through a tin can, played back on the speakers of a Geo Metro, recorded again with a pair of headphones, and then immediately sent out for pressing. Fans of old Guided by Voices and Sebadoh will probably feel all warm and fuzzy inside when they hear this album, as Times New Viking are a cassette band trapped in an mp3 world. However, in an age where decent production is just a Macbook away, its quite possible that Rip It Off will be a hard sell for many younger indie rock fans. Even the most battle tested listener will probably, on occasion, wish for a better quality version of their favorite song (currently the combo of "End of All Things" and "Times New Viking Vs. Yo La Tengo"). Still, Rip It Off is chalk full of undeniably good tunes, regardless of how they sound, and further establishes Times New Viking as a young band to keep an eye on.

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Is This Guy Gay or Straight? Depends On What Channel You're Watching

Ordinarily I don't pay much attention to commercials. Unless of course, they're accompanied by a fine tune (as of late, The Shins, The Flaming Lips, Rogue Wave, Junior Boys, Iron & Wine, Architecture in Helsinki, and of course, Feist and Of Montreal).

Recently I've been keen on a Levi's commercial starring this fine fellow here, who discovers that pulling up and down his pants can literally shift the tectronic plates around him (typical guy realization). If he yanks up his pants hard enough, a hot gal in a phone booth will burst through the earth's hot magma core and straight into his bedroom. All set to the breezy backdrop of Peter Bjorn and John's "Up Against the Wall."

Last night I was watching a certain guilty pleasure of mine on Bravo when this commercial came on. Once more a hot babe burst through the floor, albeit a decidedly different one. Just see for yourself.

If you're watching anything but Logo or Bravo, you get this babe:

If you're watching Logo or Bravo, you get this babe:

I think someone should inform PB&J about this split ad (if they don't know about it already). Not because they should have a problem with the gay ad -- because they shouldn't -- but with it being two ads and all, shouldn't they get paid twice for their song rights? I'm just saying.

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Check This Shit Out!
P4K Love and More

Just a few minutes ago, I was perusing theTimes New Viking Guest List that was posted on Pitchfork to see if they had any interesting anecdotes about their tour with Yo La Tengo. They did mention the tour, but what I found even more interesting is that they plugged Lawrence, Kansas' very own Love Garden Sounds! Honestly, its about time. Love Garden is a pretty bad ass record store, with a great selection and very affordable prices to boot. Congrats to them on their first (from what I can recall) Pitchfork mention, and thanks to Times New Viking for the plug.

Speaking of Kansas and Pitchfork, former Kansas natives Blood on the Wall received a very favorable 7.8 score/review from the online publication on Monday, upstaging the venerable Chan Marshall and receiving a Recommended status (which is just below the coveted Best New Music status). Blood on the Wall have two "homecoming" shows in the next week, the first on Tuesday with Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk, and the second on Wednesday at The Record Bar with The Jim Button Band (which yours truly hopes to attend). Swing by one of the shows and congratulate them on their good reviews, and don't forget to pick up the album, Liferz, which is out now via The Social Registry.

Speaking of Baby Birds..., remember my last Check This Shit Out post where I talked about the big CHOMP WOMP COMP to-do at the Jackpot? Well, the compilation is available for FREE at the CHOMP WOMP site, and I HIGHLY recommend you high tail your little ass over download it. The Panda Bear-esque "Eating With Horse", by Baby Birds, is a highlight, as is the instrumental "Tracer" by Oregon as a Shape (Gaurav Bashyakarla of Boo and Boo Too) and "Bong Rips With Burial" by DJ Iggy Baby's project, Norrit (which wins the award for Song Title That Best Describes the Range Life Staff on a Saturday Night, and is so good we're streaming it on our player).

Lastly, The New Amsterdams have a show at The Record Bar tomorrow (Friday) night with Making Movies, and Ad Astra Per Aspera is playing a benefit for the Gadugi Safecenter out at the Jackpot in Lawrence. Fuckin' rock!

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Chan Marshall and the Case of the Mystery Mole!

As most of us know, Chan Marshall, the woman behind Cat Power, has finished recording a CD of covers called Jukebox, which was released this Tuesday. (See Femme Fatale's post below.)

Harp Magazine discovered something quite interesting involving the cover art for this new album while they were working on their January issue.

The beautiful Chan has a good sized mole upon her left cheek. This mole has not existed before live or in previous photographs. See Before & After.


As also cited in the Harp article, I think it does fit the 60s pop art cover design of the album.


I don’t know about you, but I think a good placed mole can definitely be intriguing.

Are you wondering where you can purchase your own flirty beauty mark? I thought so.
Check out:

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Nostalgic Video:
Bowie in the 80s

Lately I've been getting into David Bowie material that didn't trickle down from my mother's Best Of Bowie collections. Maybe I'll burn her Hunky Dory? Nonetheless, I wanted to honor two videos that constituted my earliest introduction to The Thin White Duke, Mr. Stardust, or whatever you want to call him. About the first video, "Let's Dance": Remember those kids with the red shoes? ("Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.") And the second: I'll leave it a surprise for now, but suffice it to say Mr. Bowie's skintight white pants introduced many of us to the terms "boner," "hard-on," etc.

I've heard more than one Bowie fan say the 80s were not his best work --- yet this was the time of my childhood when I started watching MTV and, yes, Jim Henson films. Fans have hopefully forgiven Bowie for his transgressions during this era; here's hoping he'll forgive me for posting them for you here.

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"Never Gonna Wipe My Butt": Mystery Revealed!

Remember back in October when I wrote a post titled, "Tim & Eric + "My Butt" + The Shins" = What?"? Googling these search terms brought up a ridiculous video of the Shins performing a bizarre song called "Never Gonna Wipe My Butt."

At the time I said,

"Adult Swim, I don't need your help finding videos of indie-popsters singing about wiping their butts. What I need from you are new Tim and Eric episodes."
Well, just color me corrected, because Adult Swim IS showing new episodes, and on the most recent one, the original version of "Never Gonna Wipe My Butt" was shown. If you are a fan of Tim and Eric, this won't faze you. If you're not, beware.

At the end of this same episode, viewers were treated to a clip of The Shins playing an acoustic version of the song in the Tim and Eric studio, followed by Tim and Eric shaking their heads and saying, "I don't think it's gonna work."

I disagree: if nothing else, the song might have added some pep to Wincing the Night Away. Ouch...

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Top Five Tuesday:
Round Trip To Africa

It's five in the morning and I have been traveling for over 24 hours. The plane from Casablanca to Nouakchott, Mauritania finally decides to make its way to the terminal. We were scheduled to board the flight at 1:30 but now we are on "Africa time." I quickly find out that that means there is no rush to get anything accomplished with the exception of birthing a child. Aching for the site of anything resembling a bed I board the plane. A man comes up claiming to have the window seat. Damn, not to mention he’s about three times my size. The perfect size to block my aisle seat view of the window. The only thing that can save me now is my trusty iPod.

Throughout my adventures in Africa I helped deliver babies, screened people for different diseases and ailments, doled out medication like a real professional and, of course, listened to music. The Mauritanian music was an experience in itself. The entire village of Hamidad greeted our team with drums, dancing, and singing. Unfortunately I was unable to procure the videotape one of my classmates captured of this extraordinary event. In consolation I have selected five songs that, in some form or another, may give you a glimpse into my African adventure.

5. Air – "Universal Traveler"
The "Universal Traveler" lyrics say it all. "I know so many places in the world/I follow the sun in my silver plane/ Universal traveler/ If you have a look/ Outside on the sea/ Everything is white/ It’s so wonderful/ Universal traveler/ So far, so far/ So far away…" The song continues to tell the story of how one meets people along their journey and ends on a hopeful note eliciting thoughts of future travel.

4. Sun Ra – "We Travel The Spaceways"
So I didn’t travel to outer space but Africa is close enough, right?

3. Bobby Darin – "You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby"
"I caught babies in Africa." Sounds weird, huh? Any of my nursing folk can tell you that catching a baby (at least for a student) is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Africa, unlike the US, holds minimal restrictions around their health care system. Students can do just about anything, which includes delivering children. In honor of one particular blue baby (aka not breathing and in need of resuscitation) I have selected this little ditty by Bobby Darin. This baby girl fought for her life and won. Close to a week after her birth she came back to the clinic for a check-up. I examined her and she was doing as well as could be expected. She was a beautiful baby and Bobby sings it best.

2. Explosions In The Sky – "What Do You Go Home To?"
"What Do You Go Home To?" brings back memories of the flight home. I was longing to be near familiar surroundings. I deeply missed my friends, Ryan, and Andre 6000. This piece and I possessed both melancholy and mirthful tones – perfect for the return trip home.

1. Simon & Garfunkel – "Homeward Bound"
I could not have asked for a more applicable song for my return to the United States. "Home where my thought’s escaping/ home where my music’s playing/ home where my love lies waiting…" "Homeward Bound" is a classic song that will never go out of style.



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Coachella Announces Its Lineup...And I'm an Ungrateful Bitch

So, the powers that be released the full 2008 Coachella Lineup today, and the Sunday pull-out-all-the-stops headliner is...wait for it...Radiohead? MBV?

No, you fool! Roger Waters!

To be sure, there are some pretty amazing bands playing, including Portishead headlining Saturday night (Woohoo!), and The Verve in next-to-biggest font on the Friday lineup (Wooohooo!). Plus we can't ignore Animal Collective, The National, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Hot Chip, M.I.A., Jens Lekman, Les Savy Fav, Architecture in Helsinki, Akron Family, St. Vincent, etc. etc. etc.

And hearing Dark Side of the Moon performed would be pretty incredible, I SUPPOSE.

So why am I boohooing? I guess I was just holding out for something sweeter.

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Album Review:
Cat Power - Jukebox

Cat Power - Jukebox

(Matador, 2008)


"Metal Heart" [mp3]
(Busted By Web Sheriff 1/22/08)

How does someone review a covers album? Does one judge the selection of songs, their treatment, or their place within the artist's catalog? I ask because I've never been the biggest fan of covers. All I know is, a good cover should maintain the charm/intensity/essence of the original, while also allowing the artist to incorporate his or her unique sound. (Consider, on the most basic level, Yo La Tengo's take on the Simpsons' theme. This brief cover is unarguably faithful to the original, yet sounds like a version only YLT could envision.)

This crucial requirement is perhaps the biggest reason why Cat Power's second covers album fails to captivate.

Jukebox continues Chan Marshall's transition to bluesier, more soulful work, a la 2006's The Greatest. This creates some intriguing results, such as her jazzy renditions of "Theme from 'New York, New York'" or James' Brown's "Lost Someone."

Yet, and perhaps this is the cover-hater in me, Marshall's most narcisstic -- and accomplished -- moment comes via a cover of "Metal Heart" off her 1998 album Moon Pix. I think this track may be in the running for 2008's Best Songs from Mediocre/Bad Albums, as we see an already standout track given the new smokier, bluesier Cat Power treatment.

I'm not sure what Marshall has in store for us next. Until then, I'll be listening to The Greatest and wondering when she'll get back to doing what she does best -- her own music.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Album Review:
Evangelicals - The Evening Descends

Evangelicals - The Evening Descends

(Dead Oceans; 2008)


[mp3] "Skeleton Man"

Towards the end of "Bellawood," a swirling, haunting epic of a song about a mental institution named, you guessed it, Bellawood, singer Josh Jones repeats the phrase "Strange things keep happening / all around my head / strange things keep happening." With topics that cover ghost stories, drugs, and a boy who nearly dies following a car crash only to actually die from the shock of having his legs removed in order to save his life - to name only a few - it's quite possible that these lyrics might very well contain the album's not-so-hidden mantra.

But The Evening Descends is more than just a vehicle for Josh Jones' fantastic, slightly twisted imagery, there's also some great fucking music. The album is what you might get if you tossed some early Flaming Lips (naturally, given the Oklahoma connection), Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's most epic climaxes (not to mention Jones' voice, which at times is similar to Alec Ounsworth's caterwauling yelps) and Sunset Rubdown's seamless production into a blender with hallucinogenic mushrooms. It's a dense, layered album that teases the brain and really takes hold with repeated listens on headphones, where the music best lends itself to Jones' storytelling. Though its way too early to make any bold predictions, I feel confident in saying that 2008 should be a good year for Evangelicals, and I'm proud to say that The Evening Descends is, at the very least, the year's first really good record.

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Live Review:
Yo La Tengo - Springfield, MO - 1/18/08

Review by Ryan Bonacker

Photos/Video by Nicole Pope

I love going to Yo La Tengo shows. Last Saturday's show was my fifth, and it did not disappoint in any way. One of the reasons - hell, maybe the reason - I love seeing this band so much is that even if you know what to expect, you never know exactly what you're going to get.

The show was the final stop on the Freewheeling tour, and even though I expected a mellower, Storytellers- type affair, I was pleasantly surprised by just how varied the show was. With absolutely no keys of any type (organ, electric piano), no bass drum (and Georgia only using brushes, no less) and only one (one!) acoustic guitar to Ira's name, I figured the band had planned a nice acoustic set with spaces to tell stories intermittently throughout the set. I wasn't too far off. There was no real "set" planned out, just a beginning and an end, with songs written down to perform in case the requests weren't creating a spark (which they did, more on that in a moment). In between songs, the band would field questions and requests from the audience, though most of the questions weren't exactly answered. Instead, the band dished out humorous quips and anecdotes on topics ranging from the "Sugarcube" video shoot to talking to Steve Albini on the phone (and not believing it was really him).

But I'll be honest, I didn't go for the Q&A, I went for the music. And as long as I'm being honest, I'll admit that I'm a much bigger fan of Yo La's distorted, shoegaze-y material, at least in the live setting. With that said, I have to say that hearing many of the night's songs stripped down to their barest essentials was quite spellbinding. Whether it was an already low-key number like "Let's Save Tony Orlando's House" or a the fuzzy "Decora," the band proved that they could create a stunning, gorgeous atmosphere with even the most minimal of tricks.

Though I'm sure a handpicked set by the band would have been wonderful, I'm convinced the audience requests are what made the music portion of the show as interesting as it was. Thanks to the audience, we were treated to classic Yo La Tengo ("Sugarcube"), some off the beaten tracks ("Upside-Down" from May I Sing With Me, which I believe marks the first time I've heard them play a song from that album), and many covers (including an excellent take on the Kinks' "Tired of Waiting for You"). The highlight of the night, however, was their rendition of "Blue Line Swinger," another audience request. Clean and stripped down at first, the song could have been performed simply as a gentle lullaby, but instead Ira hit the distortion pedal at just the right time, giving the audience a taste of the song as we know and love it. It was magic, like only a band as creative and talented as them could do. Already I'm looking forward to Yo La Tengo concert number 6, even if I have no idea what's in store.

"Blue Line Swinger"


"????" "Fog Over Frisco"

Femme Fatale says: Anyone who can tell me what this last song is, automatically earns the title of "Bigger Yo La Tengo Fan Than Me." Get to it!

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Mixtape Monday:
Unappreciated Songs - Redeemed

Lately I've been spouting off quite a bit about what makes good music, and one criterion is that it challenges me. That said, there have been plenty of times when I've heard a song and, for whatever reason -- the music, the vocals, the subject matter -- I am completely turned off. Thankfully, this process is reverseable.

Today I'm dedicating this playlist to all those songs I didn't appreciate, but which I now adore.

Sorry I didn't get you, songs.

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The Weekend in Music: Yo La Tengo, Velvet Underground, The Simpsons

This weekend it was off to Springfield, Missouri, for some Yo La Tengo, catching up with friends, and of course, Chipotle. There's nothing like a road trip in the dead of winter: sleeping on the floor all drunken-college- years style, fighting a mysterious Africa disease (wait, that was Girlfriend), eating blueberry-pancake-wrapped-sausages (wait, that wasn't me, either.) Plus, there was some bitchin music.

And Then My Beer Bottle Turned Itself Inside Out
I was intrigued by the idea of seeing Yo La Tengo in an art gallery, and an art gallery named Randy Bacon Gallery at that. We suspected this was to be a low-key, acoustic-type YLT. For the most part this was the case, though they did rock out at the end, as I shall show you when my enormous videos upload.

Upon arrival at the Bacon Gallery, Backdrifter went to secure beer. He came back whispering, "Free beer, for as long as it lasts." Not just any beer, either, but 312. The downside? Once the free beer was gone (which was quickly), that meant ALL the booze was gone. Unless, of course, you went to the women's restroom before the show and were offered swigs from a bottle of Hypnotiq -- thanks, ladies! Still, who I am to complain about FREE BEER?

Etc: That is not a picture of a penis hanging down. Though I'm not sure what is is.

...And free beer/YLT is connected to The Simpsons because Homer likes Duff Beer, and because YLT are big Simpsons fans...

Simpsons Nerds, Take Note
I hath captured the following, recorded in a city called Springfield, no less.

...And YLT is connected to VU because YLT played the band in I Shot Andy Warhol...Can someone help me connect The Velvet Underground with The Simpsons?

I'm a big fan of The Velvet Underground & Nico ("Femme Fatale," anyone?), yet somehow had never heard the band's fourth studio album Loaded until this weekend. Let me just say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. This just goes to show me, once again, that I am a baby in the world of music appreciation. Just give me a few more years...

Etc.: There was a strange moment listening to the Peel Slowly and See bonus tracks when I heard a demo of "Ocean," which up until that time I knew only as an Ambulance Ltd. song. For shame! As I said upon making this discovery, "I knew that song was too good to be theirs."

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Friday, January 18, 2008

It's the Devil's Music!

I’m sure you were all as excited as I was when you heard about Time Life’s offer. Secular music is just too… rockin. I want to listen to music in which art takes a back seat to the message of Christ.

But seriously, why is Christian music so bad?

I’m as guilty as the next guy for liking that one Jars of Clay song in high school. (I know, I'm sorry!) And I’m still not sure if Collective Soul is a Christian band. You can't throw a rock without hitting a church in most of the Midwest, so it was kind of hard to avoid the songs. But by and large the vast collection of Christian music is complete shit. Why?

Imma get philosophical on yer ass.

Art of any kind is concerned with both form (or style) and content (or subject). Both are important in every work of art, but not equally so. Depending on the medium, form or subject takes the lead.

In writing, content is king. Even if you don’t like the voice of the author, you can enjoy a well-designed and communicated story. In painting, form is queen. Beauty is in how the apple is depicted, not in the fact that it’s an apple.

Music is closer to painting than writing in this sense. Most people who like music (but aren’t obsessed with it) can tell you that they like a song, but they probably can’t tell you what it is about. I’m a little backwards in this sense, since I can usually tell you exactly what a song is about after I’ve heard it twice.

My idiosyncrasies aside, one need only point to classical or instrumental music to plainly illustrate that form is most important in music. Even when there are vocals, the singer can often-times sing complete nonsense as long as he or she sings it beautifully.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why Christian music is bad. It puts the message before the form. It puts the Christian before the Music… so much so that the style must be tagged on as in “Christian Rock” or “Christian Blues” (does such a thing exist?). As far as I know, Christian music is the only genre that does this. “Emo” comes close, but is so ill defined as to be almost meaningless.

Plenty of secular bands write songs with Christian symbolism. It’s hard to find an album without at least one mention of angels, demons, god, etc. But this isn’t the focus. The focus is on the music, not the secularism. That’s a strange term, by the way… secular music. We don’t have a term for music that’s not about rainbows, why have one for music that’s not about Jesus?

Despite being inferior musically almost by definition, Christian bands have a huge following. How did that happen? Let’s ignore the people who actually believe secular music is a conduit for Satan’s will as a definite minority of listeners. What do Christian music fans get out of listening?

Simply put, they get affirmation.

And don’t we all love that?

I’m gonna go listen to "Weird Fishes" now. I wonder what that affirms for me.

Everybody leaves if they get the chance. And this is my chance.

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The 'Narcotic Need' for New Music

By Nicole Pope

There's a new Beach House song called "Gila" that I cannot stop thinking about. Over the past week I fell so disgustingly in love with it. I listened to it over and over and over again. I hummed the song in my husband's presence, belted it out with full-lung-capacity when he left for work. I wanted to be Victoria Legrand. I wanted to sing in a girl-boy band, dress like a ragamuffin indie star, sing with such somber austerity.

Then, just like that, I heard the song for the umpteenth time, and to quote The Flaming Lips, "suddenly, everything ha[d] changed." The rush was simply over.

I'm familiar with this sort of burn out, and typically avoid over-listening to something for this precise reason. It's why I listen to full albums rather than individual songs. It's why I now skip "Svefn-G-Englar" or "Cybele's Reverie" or "The Past and Pending" or the first three tracks off The Moon and Antarctica or even "Paranoid Android" (though mainstream radio is responsible for burning me out on that song long before I heard it in context of the album).

So what leads to this binge-and-crash relationship with new music?

In his collection of essays titled Songbook, Nick Hornby describes what he calls a "narcotic need" for music. He discusses a theory posed by music critic Dave Eggers, that we play songs over and over and over again in an attempt to "solve" them. This theory definitely holds true from my standpoint. When I hear something new, it challenges me, forces me to look at it from different angles, to scratch at the varnish and wires and rusty nails until I get at its shivering, naked core. Unfortunately, the mystery only lasts so long. I guess you could say I've undressed "Gila" one too many times.

So the bad news is we can't keep that giddy, newly-in-love feeling forever. And eventually, even artists as seemingly bizarre as Animal Collective eventually sound "normal." The good news, though, is that sometimes after putting something on the proverbial shelf for a while, we can rediscover it. That, and, true music addicts know they can move on and get their fix elsewhere. Perhaps Hornby best captures this sentiment when he states,

“A couple of times a year I make myself a tape to play in the car, a tape full of all the new songs I’ve loved over the previous few months, and every time I finish one I can’t believe that there’ll be another. Yet there always is, and I can’t wait for the next one; you only need a few hundred more things like that, and you’ve got a life worth living.”

Read last week's Unappreciated Scholar.

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Love Garden Changes Ownership...Sorta

I ran into my old Joyce professor Katie Conrad yesterday, and her multi-pinned Love Garden bag prompted me to ask how the business was going. (Her husband Cory Willis co-owns the much beloved Lawrence record store.)

Or should I say co-owned. Conrad told me, a little sadly, that her husband had sold his half of the business to fellow co-owner Kelly Corcoran.

"Don't worry, it's still going to be locally owned," she said.

And Willis is no sell out, either -- he just wanted to be a full-time stay-at-home dad with the couple's newborn. Conrad said she still hoped everyone would give LOVE to the Love Garden. When I told her a few of my friends alone could probably keep the place in business, she said, "Please thank them for me." There you have it, guys. Your love for the Love Garden hath been reciprocated.

Random Love Garden memory: Check out this picture I took whilst relieving myself in the LG bathroom during a 24-hour reading of Joyce's Ulysses. All of a sudden, what I thought was a closed door opened, and in walked this cat (Jack, I believe), which promptly started helping itself to the leaky faucet. Those damn felines think they own the place... (Suddenly I'm reminded how, when another of the store's charmingly obese cats passed on -- Cayenne -- my professor sent an obituary to the English Dept's listserv. And wrote a story about it. And Lawrence residents were genuinely distressed! I love this town.)

For the "Record" (Haha): Much of that Ulysses reading took place in the LG's backroom, and I just want to say that I was, at one time, left alone amongst piles of rare EPs and imports (many bearing the tantalizing name of a certain R-band.) If only I had zero conscience -- but then I love Love Garden too much.

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Have You Heard?

Several years ago, an old friend and co-worker told me I should check out this incredible band he caught at the Replay Lounge by accident. They were, of course, the Chicago-based band Mahjongg. This guy, Adam, and I had similar tastes in music, but when he told me they were electronic my mind began to wander. I can get into some of the more crossover electronic acts, but I've typically never been the biggest fan of electronic music as a whole. Still, Adam was very intuitive, and because he made it a point to recommend this band to me, I stored their name and information in the back of my brain. Flash forward to this past week. I heard Mahjongg had a new record coming out, and decided it was finally time, for the sake of the blog if nothing else, to check this band out. Let me just say that I'm an idiot for waiting so long.

Now, I've only heard two songs, "Pontiac" and "Tell the Police the Truth," but they're two very impressive songs. Both rely heavily on poly-rhythms, and sound like they take equal influence from electronic music and post rock. "Tell the Police the Truth" is probably the more "pop" of the two tracks. The first minute or so sounds like they put samples from the classic arcade game Galaga over their intricate rhythms, but the song soon shifts into something a little more like the Faint, which is to say you can dance to it, and takes off from there. You can stream both songs in the player (they're labeled funny, I know, but damn good just the same), or download them at The Modern Music (which is where I found these tracks in the first place, so a big thanks goes out to them).

[Midwest slant] Mahjongg have several shows lined up in Midwest, including one in Lawrence. Remember, my buddy Adam said these guys were good live, so don't make the same mistake I did and forget about them. Midwest dates:

24 - Mahjongg @ The Waiting Room (Omaha, NE)
15 - Mahjongg w/ Coat Party @ the Jackpot (Lawrence, KS)
17 - Mahjongg w/ Blitzen Trapper (!), Fleet Foxes @ Mojo's (Columbia, MO)

Mahjongg's newest album, Kontpab, comes out January 22 on K Records. Get ready.

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First Listen Friday:
The Voom Blooms, SM&J, Elvis Perkins

Here are three more tracks in my second installment of First Listen Friday. Rock out to the first two and slow things down with the third.

The Voom Blooms - "Thoughts of Rena"

These Brit rockers are just getting started. Tons of energy is packed into this song. Listen for the false ending going all "Obstacle 1" with competing guitars backed by wicked bass.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - "Dragonfly Pie"

The opening track from Malkmus' upcoming album Real Emotional Trash has your signature nonsensical lyrics and bad ass guitar solo.

Elvis Perkins - "While You Were Sleeping"

I've been obses
sing over this song for awhile. I heard it again recently and had to add it to First Listen Friday. Is it just me, or does someone playing a saw earn automatic bonus points?

Have a nice listen!

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Have You Heard?
White Flight

I've become increasingly infatuated with a Lawrence musician named Justin Roefols, who records under the name White Flight. As "white flight" is a term to describe white Americans fleeing racially diverse areas for the sequestered suburbs, I find this a particularly apt name for a Kansas musician.

Years ago when local band The Anniversary parted ways, Roefols left for South America to do some soul searching. After his return, he ended up expanding his former band's sound considerably, as well as his facial hair. Whoa man, check out that dude's beard. Those sun-drenched locks...

White Flight - "Pastora Divine"

More on White Flight after the jump.

White Flight's self-titled debut is lo-fi psychedelia that sounds at times like Beck, The Unicorns, Devendra Banhart, and, many many more. A second White Flight album is allegedly due out this summer, according to local label Range Life Records (NOT affiliated with this blog. I guess great minds, and Pavement fans, think alike.)

Despite a suspicious lack of White Flight press, Fader recently did an intriguing piece on Roefols (from which we hath nabbed this photo). Also, check out White Flight's Myspace for a listen to more tracks off 2006's White Flight, including some pretty kickass remixes of "Deathhands" and "The Condition."

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